How to read Mac-formatted drives on Windows

4 minute read

It’s obvious that Windows PCs and Mac computers are quite different. But besides their many major differences, there are also smaller distinctions that separate Microsoft’s and Apple’s operating systems.

For example, Windows and Mac computers use different file systems for reading hard disks and removable drives. As you may have heard, Windows uses the NTFS file system while Mac uses HFS+.

Alternatively, most hard drives and USB flash drives are formatted with the FAT32 file system, recognized by both PCs and Macs. That way, wider compatibility means more customers. However, some people might need to load a HFS+ drive but don’t have a Mac nearby.

In that case, we should look for help from a third-party solution. There are a few useful programs that allow us to read HFS+ drives on our Windows PCs without formatting them. So, we made a list of the best options so you can choose the one best suitable for you.

Top programs for reading Mac-formatted drives on Windows


Don’t format the drive by yourself!

As soon as you connect a Mac-formatted drive to a PC, you’ll be asked to format a drive. The following message will appear: “You need to format the disk in drive X: before you can use it.

If you choose to format, it will erase everything from the drive and you’ll end up with the empty space. This is fine if you just want a free drive to use, but if you have some data to access click ‘Cancel’ and use one of the following programs to make the hard drive readable.


Paragon HFS+ (recommended)


Paragon HFS+ is a premium solution that does come with a price tag. With that price, though, comes a handful of useful features that offer you everything you need for managing HFS+ drives on Windows computers. You can use it for moving files and folders between the two devices.

Paragon HFS+ also offers full integration with Windows Explorer, so you can open the HFS+ drive from basically anywhere. The developer promises a satisfying performance, which is another plus for this program.

Paragon HFS+ is available for the price of $20, but you can also use the free trial for 10 days. So, if you need to perform this action only once, you can take the advantage of the free trial, and get the job done free of charge. On the other hand, if you frequently need to manage HFS+ drives on your computer, paying $20 is still a pretty good deal.


HFS Explorer

HFS Explorer is probably the program you’re going to use for this action, especially if you need to read a Mac-formatted drive one time. The reason for using HFS Explorer is because, first and foremost, it’s free unlike other programs from this list. Additionally, it’s quite simple to use doesn’t require much effort.

To access data from an HFS+ drive with HFS Explorer, connect the drive, open the program, and go to File > Load File System From Device. HFS Explorer will automatically recognize the drive and show its content. From here, you can manage and export files and folders from the drive to your computer.

Keep in mind that HFS Explorer is a read-only program, so you can’t copy files from your computer to the hard drive. If you want to have a full control over your HFS+ hard drive in Windows, you’ll have to try some of the paid solutions listed below. Additionally, to be able to use HFS Explorer, you need the Java runtime environment installed on your computer.

You can download HFS Explorer from this link.


Mediafour MacDrive

MacDrive is a solution for more advanced users who really need to get the most of their HFS+ drives. It offers complete integration with Windows Explorer, which makes HFS+ drives extremely easy to use on Windows computers. Of course, the program is read/write, as well.

Perhaps the biggest standout of this program is the ability to repair disks and manage partitions. With all these options, Mediafour’s MacDrive allows users complete control over HFS+ drives on Windows.

All these features come with a price of $50. However, just as in the case of Paragon‘s program, you can also take advantage of the free trial. With MacDrive, it only lasts for 5 days.

You can download Mediafour MacDrive from this link.


If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, just let us know in the comments seciton below.

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